The Federal Government on Thursday re-arraigned Air Commodore Umar Mohammed (retd.), before the Federal High Court on six counts of money laundering, unlawful possession of classified documents and illegal possession of firearms.
President Muhammadu Buhari had appointed Mohammed alongside the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, and others to serve in the defunct Presidential Committee investigating the procurement of arms and equipment in the Armed Forces.
The investigating committee was set up in the early period of the Buhari regime.
Umar was later named in the report which the Department of State Services used to scuttle Magu’s Senate confirmation in 2016.
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The then Director-General of the DSS, Lawal Daura, had, in the report, accused Magu of having “mutually beneficial relationship” with Umar who was then said to be under probe by the DSS.
Yesterday, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation re-arraigned Umar alongside his company, Easy Jet Integrated Services Limited, before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja on six counts of money laundering, illegal possession of firearms and violation of Official Secret Act.
Ekwo is the third judge to handle Umar’s case since it started.
The defendant was earlier arraigned before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba in July 2016 and re-arraigned later in September 2016 before Justice John Tsoho, who is now the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
The case has now been transferred to Ekwo.
Umar and his company pleaded not guilty to the charges again yesterday.
Specifically, he and his company were accused of accepting $1,030,000 in cash from a firm, Worldwide Consortium PTY Limited, “as payment for flight services” without going through a financial institution as required by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
The government also accused him of having in his possession, at his No. 4 Lungi Close, Mississippi, Maitama, Abuja home, “classified/official documents without lawful authority and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(1) (b) of the Official Secret Act and punishable under Section 7(1) (a) of the same Act.
He was also accused of forging classified official documents purportedly emanating from the office of the Vice-President on 20 May 2016, in violation of Section 362 of the Penal Code.
Umar was also accused of being in illegal possession of two pump-action guns, marked, SBSG Magnum 397 and SBGS Interpress 09-1573, between 1 June 2011 and 19 June 2016 without valid licences, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act 2004 and punishable under Section 27(1) (b) (i) of the Act.
After Umar and his company took their plea on Wednesday, their lawyer, Mr Y.D. Dagana, urged Ekwo to allow the former military officer to continue to enjoy the bail earlier granted him by the previous judges.
Prosecuting counsel, Sanusi Dakkat, did not oppose the request.
Ekwo acceded to the defence lawyer’s request and adjourned till 13 October for the commencement of trial.
It will be recalled that the DSS had, in its 2016 report sent to the Senate, claimed that EFCC documents, including letters addressed to the Vice-President and investigation reports on the activities of the commission, were found in Umar’s home during a search by the DSS.
Magu had denied knowledge of how Umar purportedly came about those documents and insisted that his relationship with the former Air Force was “one of professional acquaintance, devoid of issues of conflict of interest.”
He confirmed that he, on two occasions flew in Mohammed’s aircraft from Kano to Abuja, and Abuja to Maiduguri.
Magu said both flights were offered to him by Umar as harmless gestures.